What you need to know:
- The nearest the senators have come to explain their differences on the proposed formula is that the allocation must be equitable and must address historical injustices.
- None of the politicians has defined what equitable means, neither have they proposed what will constitute sufficient compensation of historical injustices to the formula proposed by CRA.
- The vocal politicians are simply guided by mindset, often evident in the form of what is referred to by psychologists as cognitive bias, which in most cases leads to wrong conclusions and actions.
For weeks now, the Senate has been politicking to find the right formula to allocate revenues to County Governments. Politics, however, is not a science.
To determine the best way to allocate resources, we need data science. Without data, no matter how much politics weighs in, someone will still feel affronted by whatever formula.
An argument is won by data and strong evidence. Any other means is palaver. Intimidating others to win support for a non-scientific allocation formula indeed exacerbates the problem since it draws the attention of the public in the wrong direction and breeds mistrust.
In their wisdom, the Commission on Revenue Allocation (CRA) proposed a formula, for the senate to debate and approve. Logically, the debate should be centred around the proportions allocated to each of the determinant factors. Instead, politicians are shelving issue-based arguments and targeting people's emotions.
The nearest the senators have come to explain their differences on the proposed formula is that the allocation must be equitable and must address historical injustices. In which case they should be giving counter offers of the proposed proportions. The math is that simple, but the political mindset is not.
None of the politicians has defined what equitable means, neither have they proposed what will constitute sufficient compensation of historical injustices to the formula proposed by CRA. None has also shown who is specifically from which county or counties responsible for the historical injustices.
The vocal politicians are simply guided by mindset, often evident in the form of what is referred to by psychologists as cognitive bias, which in most cases leads to wrong conclusions and actions.
In politics, biases are hard to deal with. That is why there is what political scientists call democratic compromise.
In a country like Kenya where there is deep-rooted mistrust, terms like democratic compromise do not exist neither do our politicians have any principles that can help in predicting why they support or disagree on major policy decisions.
It is perhaps why Mohandas Gandhi once said that "politics without principle", (lacking truth(s) to justify our actions), will unfortunately in the final analysis create chaos. Gandhi called these indiscretions "passive violence", “which fuels the active violence of crime, rebellion, and war.”
He defined principle as, "the expression of perfection,” and admonished that “as imperfect beings like us cannot practice perfection, we devise every moment limits of its compromise in practice."
In the past, it is our imperfections that led us into violence. The more we fail to make reasoned arguments and truths based on facts, the less we create an opportunity for compromise and inability to necessitate peaceful co-existence that fosters sustainable economic development.
The aspect of historical injustices has been addressed in many ways in our constitutional design but it somehow lingers in our national discourse. The proposed revenue allocation formula has attempted to address the same based on poverty, land area and to some extent equal share factors.
Whilst population factor deals with the aspect of equity, fiscal and development factors are largely incentives to do better for the counties.
There is nothing wrong with the structure of the formula. With data, it is easy to make arguments around these factors to avoid the current utterances that could easily trigger hate crimes.
As it is, we forget too quickly having courted chaos in 2007/2008. Both the Kriegler and Waki Commissions revealed that the underlying causes of violence were deep-rooted social structures and historical injustices that previous governments had failed to address.
As a result, several instruments including the 2010 Constitution sought to address the injustices. It is absurd that politicians are not using these instruments to make their arguments in a more open-minded way that allows for compromise.
Avoid dangerous statements
Further, besides the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, there are multiple sources of data that can be used more accurately not just to provide historical data but predictive data to enable decision makers understand their arguments from a position of knowledge. Such data includes the Household surveys, the Demographic surveys, the Huduma Number data, and data from NGO officials. We can avoid the dangerous statements that we make without the basis of data.
What we want to see from politicians is for them to show clearly from data (structured and unstructured) why they need more resources than the other counties based on the parameters proposed. For example, a senator from Tana River can use satellite data to show the impact of climate change and the flooding that goes on there as a one-time solution to minimize death from natural calamities. Next would probably be Busia to once and for all deal with the perennial flooding.
In so doing, the beginning point should be the number of people affected by the perennial disaster.
In my view, the senators ought to be acting tough on their counties to be more accountable with whatever little that is allocated to them. If they did, they would probably understand what Czech American author Martina Boone meant when she said, “It doesn't matter how great your shoes are if you don't accomplish anything in them.”
Any analysis on how counties spent their allocations will show that it did not matter how big the cake they received from county allocations but when you look on the ground, you can hardly see any accomplishment. If a bucket leaks, the logical thing you do is not to fight and add more water but first seal the loopholes.
Our political class is behaving badly. They have no principles to help them make political compromises. They use very little data if any to make gigantic decisions. Instead they use emotional appeals. That should not be the way to govern a country that needs peace to economically prosper.